Rachel Sussman Photographs The Oldest Living Organisms In The World

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Nearly 10 years ago, photographer Rachel Sussman began researching with biologists and traveling world to document forms of natural life that are at least 2,000 years old for her project titled “The Oldest Living Things in the World.” Part art, part science, Sussman’s project engages with the natural world in order to capture a brief moment in the organisms’ millenia-old lives; her photographs ask viewers to consider their own lives alongside these natural ones, some on the verge of extinction. Each of her photographs includes text below the image describing the subject, its location, and its age. In the preface to her project’s book, Sussman writes,

“What does it mean when the organic goes head-to-head with the geologic? We start talking about deep time and the quotidian in the same breath, along with all the strata in between. All of these organisms are living palimpsests: they contain myriad layers of their own histories within themselves, along with records of natural and human events; new chapters written over the old, year after year, millennium after millennium. When we look at them in the frame of deep time, a bigger picture emerges, and we start to see how all of the individuals have stories, and that all of those stories are in turn interconnected — and in turn, inextricably connected to us all.
The oldest living things in the world are a record and celebration of the past, a call to action in the present, and a barometer of our future.”

To fuel more intrigue, be sure to check out filmmaker Jonathan Minnard’s trailer for Sussman’s book as well as Sussman’s 2010 TED Talk about her project. (via brain pickings)

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Spine-Chilling Paintings By Casey Baugh Prove That The Matrix Is Real

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The painter Casey Baugh’s vibrant images are so astoundingly realistic that they could easily be mistaken for photographs if not for the eery, impressionistic brushstrokes that are only visible at close range. In rich and moody blues and blacks, the artist imagines a social and psychological landscape dominated by technology, a world where humans and machines coexist in a heightened state of tension and theatricality.

With conventionally beautiful women serving as his subjects, Baugh seduces the viewer; the photorealistic flesh glistens in soft, dreamy blues. Technology becomes a fetish object of sorts as wires coil about the curves of the female body, entangling and binding her while her sensually lit face surrenders to a strange sort of ecstasy, her body reclining suggestively.

Despite the powerful allure of technology, Baugh’s work also serves as a warning against our surrender to it. The remote, mechanical aspects of our modern lives— electronics, social media—entrap the human self with their metallic sheen and magnetic glow. A woman is seemingly choked by a collar made of industrial piping; the piece, titled Ammonoid, suggests that the foreign object has in fact integrated itself into her anatomy. Similarly, a girl is bound in glistening cellophane and confined to a cell, hooked up to televisions without chance of escape. Sadly, Baugh’s women, drawn to the irresistible blue screens, have become as much machine as human being.

The form of the work mirrors its thematic content; at first, the images look like photographs, captures of real events, but upon second glance, it becomes clear that the scene is an expertly-painted illusion. How much of our experience with technology is real? At what point do we sacrifice a truthful mortal existence for the entrancing (and ultimately fleeting) world of technology? (via HiFructose)

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MRI Scans Of Fruits And Veggies Are Astounding And Mildly Frightening


MRI technologist Andy Ellison spends his days scanning human brains, searching for abnormalities. He began scanning fruit on a whim, using an orange in a test of the machine’s settings; the results were so stunningly beautiful and transfixing that he began bringing produce to work, scanning our favorite fruits and veggies on his time off, and posting animated sequences of cross-section images onto his blog, Inside Insides.

The high-resolution black and white sequences apply the imaging tool to the arts, highlighting the geometrical perfection of organic objects. The slow motion animations are imbued with a sense of life and vitality; like pumping ventricles, the matrices of a pineapple seem to gape open and shut. A tomato resembles a microscopic cell, seemingly splitting and reproducing with astonishing speed, and a head of garlic seems to emerge, its cloves flawlessly woven together, from nothingness.

Ellison’s slow motion animation allows mesmerized viewers to be seduced by the rhythmic revelations, and the everyday is elevated to cosmic levels; an scanned eggplant seems to explode into a complex network of stars. These food products, these mundane miracles, get a moment to shine in the imaging machine’s dense whites and pure, weightless blacks. The uniqueness of each fruit takes center stage (can you find the bruised onion?), and together, they paint a rich portrait of the natural world. These elegant plant structures, viewed in this way, don’t seem so different from our very own organs. So the next time you stroll down the produce aisle, take a moment to consider the miraculous visions that lurk beneath the surface. (via Salon and Offbeat)

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Gross Yet Beautiful Artworks Made Of Mould And Bacteria


Yes, you read that right; the artist Antoine Bridier-Nahmias paints with mould, marrying art and science in an unexpectedly delightful way. His strange media include various sets of bacteria and fungi, ranging in color, texture, and density, and a petri dish serves as his canvas. Once a piece is grown to his aesthetic satisfaction, the artist photographs it from above, capturing the nuances of the material in stunning resolution.

Bridier-Nahmias’s images, perhaps revolting if seen inside your fridge, are visually enthralling when viewed in the sterile confines of the dish. Like strange and serendipitous science experiments, the moldy surfaces create ordered geometric patterns found time and again in nature; unlike paint, the bacteria reproduces itself in accordance with complex biological laws, forming perfect circles and straight lines that emanate from their centers.

A gorgeous visual balance is achieved through the artist’s careful and deliberate use of color and form; within the gestalt of the dish, puffy clouds of mould, large as sand dollars, are balanced out perceptually with bright reds; seemingly disparate species of bacteria work together to create a harmonious work.

In these pieces, the chaos of life and bacterial growth exists in continual tension with the neatly ordered aesthetic of the work, inviting views to examine moldy patterns not with disgust but with transfixed delight. When given free reign to multiply within the petri dish, these species create astoundingly formal compositions, flawless patterns that no master artist has come even close to replicating. Take a look. (via Design Boom and It’s Nice That)

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Alicia Watkins’ Clever And Cute Microbe Embroidery

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There’s not much information about Alicia Watkins‘ scientific embroidery, but we can all agree the project is a fun way to identify potentially harmful microbes. From anthrax to salmonella, herpes, e.coli, toxoplasma, mono, botulism, and the common cold, Watkins has colorfully cross-stiched many well-known bacteria, protozoa, and viruses. Some of these dreadful microbes almost appear cute by Watkins’ careful hand, associating the warmth and comfort that cross-stitching evokes with the coldness of threatening diseases and sicknesses. Watkins’ Etsy store, appropriately named Watty’s Wall Stuff, has these stiched microbes available for purchase at $19.99 each, along with other clever and pop culture influenced cross-stitch work. She also takes custom orders, as well as making some of her patterns available for purchase. (via this isn’t happiness)

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Unnerving Artworks Created With Deadly Disease-Causing Bacteria


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In collaboration with microbiologists, the English artist Anna Dumitriu has honed her unique talent for working with bacteria as a means of staining fabric; her high-art fashions feature organic patterns made by microorganisms. In her most recent installation project, The Romantic Disease, she works with a more dangerous type of bacteria: Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the organism responsible for Tuberculosis.

In combining now-killed TB DNA with found and altered relics of late 19th and early 20th century technologies, Dumitriu creates a vivid medicinal—and often foreboding— landscape. Before the invention of antibiotics, TB patients were taken to “sanatoria,” hospitals built at high altitudes (then thought to be beneficial to sufferers), where they were confined to bed and given extreme treatments. For a piece titled “Rest, Rest, and Rest!” Dumitriu constructs a model sanitarium bed; for another piece, she carves the pattern of lung tissue onto an actual Pneumothorax Machine, once used to collapse patients’ lungs.

The Romantic Disease is neither a historical or scientific tour of old hospital machinery; on the contrary, is is an emotionally dangerous and poignantly subjective exploration of the disease. Although the exhibit avoids mention or representation of actual sufferers, individual pieces are imbued with a distinctly human touch. The sanitarium bed and curtain are small and delicate as dollhouse pieces; beside the larger pieces, they appear lonesome and afraid. Similarly, a group of miniature woven felt lungs, each containing sterilized Mycobacterium tuberculosis, appear to flutter like tiny, fragile birds beside the Pneumothorax Machine.

A maternity dress, dyed with supposed TB cures like safflower and madder root, hangs loosely on a dress form; this piece becomes all the more heartbreaking with the knowledge that at a time when the disease was thought to be spread genetically, pregnant women underwent forced abortions. The historical reverence and tender craftsmanship with which Anna Dumitriu presents The Romantic Disease serves to humanize those who suffered at the hands of this politically and socially fraught disease. The work is currently on display at West London’s Waterman’s. (via Smithsonian Magazine and Anna Dumitriu)

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Stretched Skin And Gruesomely Flattened Bodies Reveal Human Truths (NSFW)






What story would your flesh tell if it were splayed and flattened, digitally altered to appear as a work of art, caught between the angled sides of a camera frame? For his stunning series of photographs, titled Skin, the photographer June Yong Lee manipulates portraits of nude bodies, arranging their torsos in such a way that defies the limitations of the muscular skeletal system.

Despite the artist’s deliberate omission of common indicators of visual identity—facial features, body shape, and race—the images are an authoritative and legible document of selfhood. Pointing to the human desire to express what cannot be conveyed with language, Lee’s camera reveals tattoos, tired milky breasts, freckles, and scars.

For the artist, skin operates as a visual diary of experience. Without the guidelines of a more recognizable human form, memories— that range from the mundane to the sexually charged— are kept only through marks etched on flesh. He writes, “our skin never forgets [our past].”

The ideological tensions between body and mind are subverted as the skin organ is compressed; as if they were flowers held between the heavy pages of an encyclopedia, mounds of sin become something to be studied and read. The careful framing of each piece enhances this idea; positioned in relation to a central axis of the navel, the bisected torsos appear bound down the middle like some sort of corporeally historical book.

The phenomenal work is so poignant because in some ways, it confirms the unreliability of a subjective human memory: tattoos are faded or unreadable, and scars are healed. The images seem to blend the antique tonal richness of early Victorian photography with a morbid sense of modern forensics; as if recovered from an ancient autopsy, the slabs of flesh are somehow mournful yet objective and scientific. Our memories erode, and we die; yet through some miraculous marriage of science and art, fragments of our forgotten moments might be archived. (via Feature Shoot)

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Arie van’t Riet’s Colorized X-rays Emphasize Natural Beauty

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Arie van’t Riet became an artist by accident. As a medical radiation physicist, van’t Riet experienced first-hand the technological developments in quality image x-rays. One day, a colleague asked him if he could x-ray one of his art paintings. van’t Riet had never done anything like that before, but found that it worked and became curious about what else he could x-ray. Starting with a bouquet of tulips, van’t Riet found that the image resembled a black and white negative. After digitizing the image and using Photoshop to color the image, people began to tell him that he was creating art, and the rest is history. van’t Riet refers to these stunning images as “bioramas.”

“Looking with X-ray eyes to nature. That’s what I like to experience with my X-ray camera. I prefer X-ray objects of ordinary scenes like a butterfly nearby a flower, a fish in the ocean, a mouse in the field,a heron along the riverside, a bird in a tree and so on. Each time it is challenging me to arrive at an X-ray photograph that represents the sentiment of the scene, do raise questions and excite curiosity.”

van’t Riet relates his incredible journey and his artistic process via this TEDxGroningen talk from October of this year. (via my modern met)

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